Sen. Mannion pushes 2 laws to improve child services after deaths of 2 Oswego County children
SYRACUSE, NY – New York State Senator John Mannion is backing two bills that would change child protection officials’ response to calls about child abuse and neglect following the deaths of two teenagers in Oswego County.
Mannion, D-Geddes, who represents part of Oswego County, said the bills would limit the number of cases for caseworkers and require more training.
The bills come after the deaths of Lance Dotson, 13, of Granby, and Jordan Brooks, 17, of Palermo, both of whom were in homes administered by the Oswego County Department of Social Services.
Lance died in a house fire in December 2021. A Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard inquiry found that caseworkers did not adequately investigate complaints about his family and home.
Related article: Did Angela and Lance have to die? How Oswego County social workers overlooked child neglect
Lance was unable to leave his house when it caught fire due to clutter. His brother Bryce Dotson survived and moved to live with his grandparents in Virginia, who repeatedly asked Oswego’s CPS staff for help. Bryce told reporters from Syracuse.com the caseworkers only came to her home once and hardly asked him or his brother any questions.
Jordan, a boy with cerebral palsy, died in May 2021 from sepsis and malnutrition, authorities said. He weighed only 55 pounds – the average weight of a boy half his age.
State investigators with the Office of Family and Child Services found that Jordan was repeatedly let down by Oswego County Child Protective Service workers.
The district workers failed to heed the pleas of the teachers, who were concerned for the boy’s health and welfare. Investigations have shown that the boy had many open, bleeding wounds. According to a state report, his tailbone was exposed and his hip implant was visible through his skin.
Jordan’s mother, Lisa, 43, and Anthony Waldron, 46, were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in July 2022. Their court cases are pending.
The bills aim to make a challenging job easier, Mannion said. Even in counties where clerks are paid higher wages, there are vacancies because of the challenges, he said.
“We need to recruit and retain people, and we need to do that by letting them know, making significant investments in the system, giving them appropriate caseloads, and providing them with solid training,” he said.
reduce case numbers
The first bill, Senate Bill S6227, asks counties to reduce it Number of cases based on two initial examinations per clerk per week. It also requires the state to bear the cost of bringing a county to that caseload.
The current level in Oswego is 26.8 total cases per caseworker, while 15 is the recommended amount, DSS Commissioner Stacy Alvord said in a December email to Syracuse.com The post standard.
In Oswego County, Alvord said that 55.1% of CPS exams were overdue and exceeded the 60-day threshold, 21.4% were older than 6 months, and 1.3% were older than a year. At the end of December, 36 of the 93.5 clerk positions were vacant, she said.
The state currently reimburses counties for 62% of CPS services, Mannion said.
The bill would cost the state $18 million. The positions have no end date, Mannion said.
The legislation is sponsored by Jabari Brisport, D-WF, Brooklyn and co-sponsored by Mannion, Andrew Gounardes D, Brooklyn and Julia Salazar D-WF, Brooklyn. The Assembly bill is A7332A sponsored by Andrew Hevesi, D, Queens and Demod Meeks, D, Rochester.
More training for clerks
The second bill responds to this by improving and strengthening the training of clerks.
A case worker told school staff she did not know much about cerebral palsy at one point, according to statements by school staff to lawmakers in the days after Jordan’s death.
The bill, S4969, requires additional annual training in disability awareness, cultural competence, sensitivity and implicit bias for caseworkers and supervisors.
Current training does not focus on developmental disabilities or cultural sensitivity, according to the bill. The bill also increases training hours from six to eight.
Senate Bill S4969 is sponsored by Timothy M. Kennedy D-IP-WF, Buffalo and Mannion. The counterpart to the Assembly is Bill A2158 sponsored by Kimberly Jean-Pierre, D, Wheatley Heights.
The Oswego County Legislature voted to waive the public service fee for the year at the Jan. 5 session.
For a list of clerk jobs in Oswego County, visit oswegocounty.com
Staff writer Rylee Kirk covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Do you have a tip, an idea for a story, a photo, a question or a comment? Reach her at 315-396-5961, on Twitter @kirk_rylee or [email protected].